TAWI-TAWI – Malaysian authorities have arrested 19 Filipinos who sneaked by boat to the oil-rich state of Sabah without any legal or travel documents, reports said.
It said members of the Malaysian armed forces intercepted the boat in Sabah recently. The Filipinos, whose identities were not immediately known, travelled to Sabah from the island of Taganak in Tawi-Tawi, one of 5 provinces under the Muslim autonomous region in Mindanao, according to the New Straits Times.
The report said the illegal entrants were mostly natives of Sulu, also in the autonomous region, and currently being investigated by the Eastern Sabah Security Command. It was unknown if any of those arrested have links with the Abu Sayyaf or local ISIS group or whether all of them were job seekers.
Taganak Island has been a traditional “jump-off point” by human traffickers in Tawi-Tawi, however, it was not immediately known why Filipino authorities have failed to detect or stop the Filipinos from illegally sneaking into Sabah despite the presence of Coast Guard and Marines in the area.
Malaysia has tightened its security since May for fear that ISIS militants fighting security forces in Marawi City in southern Philippines may escape the government offensive and slip into Sabah. It also included Abu Sayyaf chieftain and local ISIS leader Isnilon Hapilon, and jihadist militant Abdullah Maute on its wanted list along with other commanders Idang Susukan, Hatib Hajan Sawadjaan, Majan Sahidjuan and Salvador Muktadil – all implicated in cross-border kidnappings over the years.
The tight security was ordered by the Eastern Sabah Security Command under Datuk Wan Abdul Bari Abdul Khalid, who also appealed to Malaysian citizens to stay vigilant and report suspicious persons to authorities.
Hapilon and Maute were among a group of jihadist leader who occupied Marawi on May 23 in an effort to put up an Islamic State province in the restive Muslim region of Mindanao. Some of the jihadist leaders fighting in the besieged city include Malaysian Mahmud bin Ahmad and other foreign militants. (Mindanao Examiner)
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